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WACSI builds capacity of CSOs to engage media

A
GNA feature by Belinda Ayamgha

Accra, June 28, GNA –
Good communication and constant and strategic engagement between civil society
organisations (CSOs) and the media, helps in the effective dissemination of
impactful messages.

Occasional
event-centred engagement with the media, be it traditional or new media
platforms, yields a shallow portrayal of critical issues, fraught with many
challenges.

The lack of
understanding on how to engage the media effectively, and how to put out good
communications content, is a major challenge facing CSOs in Ghana.

That is the reason why
Innovation for Change under its Africa Hub programme, organised, in
collaboration with the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), a three-day
media skills training for CSOs in human rights.

“This is not just about
engaging the media, this is holistically about communication; how they can
champion their own media output as well as engaging the media, both traditional
and new media, to cover the stories about the different areas in which they
work,” stated Samuel Owusu-Baafi, Head of Communications at WACSI.

Using an analogy of a
couple, he expressed the importance of building a good relationship between
CSOs and the media, such that the media became a willing ally in disseminating
key messages on the work of CSOs that would impact society, rather than taking
an event-centred approach.

“When you’re in a
relationship with someone, you don’t wait until it’s dinnertime to talk to them
because that’s an event of the day; you don’t wait till you get home to talk to
them, you talk too continuously, you learn from them, you know what going on in
their lives and their space.

”In the same way,
civil society needs to cultivate that relationship with the media in order to
bring their attention to the different issues arising within the civic space,”
he said.

To foster this
relationship, Mr Owusu-Baafi, who co-facilitated the training, expressed the
need to understand that the media formed an important part of civil society,
and had the same goal as CSOs, of building a stronger, open, free and honest
society.

CSOs must also know,
which media houses they could trust, by reading and analysing media content of
the different media houses and what their agendas were.

Communications
personnel working for CSOs also had to commit to building relationships with
their counterparts in the media, in a bid to get to know them, their areas of
specialisation, as well as their editorial policies and philosophies.

CSOs in the same
sector could also pool resources and train as well as incentivise journalists
to focus on the issues of interest to them.

Mr Owusu-Baafi also
took participants through a social media module, where they were trained on how
to strategise and use social media to get messages out and how to represent
their organisations and brands on social media.

He said the social
media could not only be a tool for communicating but also a force for social
change.

He noted that in order
to use social media effectively, there was the need to identify a primary means
of communication, choose an appropriate platform and put together a strategy
for implementation.

Speaking on the first
of the three-day training, Mr Emmanuel Dogbevi, Executive Director of
NewsBridge Africa and Managing Editor at Ghana Business News, who
co-facilitated the sessions, schooled participants on how to engage with
traditional media and journalists, writing opinion pieces, pitching stories to
journalists and in general, communicate effectively through the media.

He noted that the
seeming distrust of the media by CSOs was a larger problem in the larger
society stemming from the unprofessional conduct of some journalists, including
the trained ones.

Mr Owusu-Baafi urged
CSOs to review the media engagement strategies and find functional ways of
relating to journalists.

To do this, he
maintained, there had to be mutual respect between the two parties and an
understanding of the work of journalists.

“The journalist is not
your public relations unit. The journalist is someone who prepares and reports
news and information independent of his/her bias,” he stated.

Building relations
with journalist will help understand the work of the organisation and build
interest in the journalist, so that the CSO becomes a source that the media
will go to for information on important issues, instead of waiting for events.

He expressed the
importance of CSOs in general building this rapport with journalists, saying
the media is closer in communicating with the public and could carry their
messages to them.

“Civil Society has a
major role to play in our democracy and working with the media is the best to
do that; s learning to relate with journalists and media organisations is a
very important skill that CSOs need to have,” he noted.

Ms Irene Lorwia-Zakpa,
who represented the Ghana National Coalition on the Rights of the Child, lauded
the training, saying a good relationship with media was very important in
disseminating information and also highlighting the work of CSOs to attract
funding and pledged her commitment to using the knowledge acquired to work with
the media to highlight children’s issues in the country.

GNA

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